Skip to main content

Full text of "History of the North Carolina Railroad"

See other formats















eN'optl\ C^polirja oMistopieaa (§)o@iettj 






IRead before the Society at Chapel Hiil, May iO, 1894, 

N'evvs and Observer Press. 

Ck 3> ^~. I 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil 



The building of an ordinary rail- 
road ie now no longer a matter of 
special interest to the public. Of 
late sears, the achievements in that 
way h»ve bean on such a gigantic 
scale 98 almost to cease to attract 
attention. But the grant of the 
charter of the Worth Oarolmft Rail- 
road in 1848-9 with two million ol 
dollars of State aid, was a new de- 
parture amongst us, and was, in 
fact, the basis end the beginning of 
cur entire present system of in- 
ternal improvement, now reaching 
and intersecting 6very part of the 

The Cbsir of History at the State 
University has therefore, done well 
to make the building of this great 
"Central" line, as it was loagcallsd, 
one of its subjects of historic re- 
search and study. I have myself, 
too, selected it as such, because I 
think the changes then set in mo- 
tion, tend to explain better than 
anything else the previous leth- 
argy of our people, and also the 
causes of the wonderful ac- 
tivity now seen and felt in all 
clasaea amongst us. I likewise select 
this subject, partly, because I was 
an actor in the vital legislative 
changes then effected, and I happen 
to know that some important errors 
prevail in regard to the real authors 
of that great measure I was at 
that thm a member of the "House 
of Commons," as it was then called, 
from the county of Cabarrus, and £ 

thick I was well posted as to all 
matters so especially affecting the 
interests of my constituents. 

The subject has certain inherent 
difficulties, which have never before, 
so far as I know, been discussed in 
the spirit of true historical criticism 
and analytic, and I approach it 
with some diffidence, because it in- 
volves times and occasions of much 
sectional, political and personal an- 
imosity and strife, which, for vari 
ous reasons, our leading men have 
heretofore been reluctant to agitate. 
But the time has now fully come 
for impartial research for the truth, 
and I feel that the learned Professor 
of History at Chapel Hill will give 
credit for an honest attempt to 
solve the problem of the marvellous 
changes referred to on the simple 
deduction of logical results from 
the facts and figures I shall give. If 
I sometimes seem to speak in the 
critical tone of impatient progress, 
and to denounce somewhat strongly 
the "terrapin p&cs of onr Old Rip 
Van Winkleism," i am s ". Dr. Bat- 
tle will understand thav J j^ean 
nothing unkind to either the dead 
or the living; and that I started in 
public life, over fifty years ago, a 
"born Whig Reformer" My first 
public speech was in Grerrard Hall in 
1841, on the "Iniquities of the 
English Opium Trade in China," 
an evil now threatening America as 


To get at the poverty of the State 
in 1848, and to show the difficulties 
to be encountered and overcome by 
the friends of Internal Improve- 




ment and general Reform, it is nec- 
essary to recur to the strange anom- 
alies of the organic law under which 
we had lived in North Carolina for 
three fourths of a century, and the 
endleis sectional strife thus en- 
gendered. It will also then appear 
how these difficulties vanished, the 
moment a true American leader 
struck the cord of popular senti 
ment; and an honest conv ction 
touched the North Carolina heart. 

In 1790, North Carolina was the 
third State in the Union in popula- 
tion and wealth. By the census of 
1840, she had declined to the rela- 
tive place of the eleventh. Why 
was this? Is it possible to trace 
clearly the causes of this decline? 
I shall attempt to do so; and the 
present generation cf our young 
people will be uurprised to 
leatn that the first ei *n of real Pro- 
gress and Reform carae from a bold 
Western statesman from the new 
State of Illinois, Judge Stephen A. 
Douglas, about 1847, then in this 
State in s- roh cf a wife Singu- 
lar! y too,' .is visit b here were follow- 
lowed the next year, 1848, by one 
of. mercy from a renowned philan 
thropist, Miss Dorothea L. Dix, of 
Massachusetts, on the then 
seemingly hopeless mission of pro- 
viding for the care and the cure of 
the insane. 

I frankly admit that, apparently, 
these matters seem quite incongru- 
ous to the subject in hand, and yet 
I shall show that Judge Douglas and 
Miss Dix each helped to pave the 
way for the grant of the Charter for 
the North Carolina Railroad. 

The entering wedge was when 
the 'Little Giant of the West" told 
"Little Davy Reid" that the old 
English Constitution of 1776, under 
which our State of North Carolina 
lived, was a fraud on Popular Sov- 
ereignty, and "Little David" and 
the wily W. W Holden horrified the 
old Hunker Democracy of East 
North Carolina, with the startling 
dogmas of "Free Suffrage, and Pro- 
gress 1 ' 

The true connection of these re- 
mote and widely separated events 
can only be fully seen by the aver- 
age voter of today, ty recounting 
truly the history of the noted Con- 
stitution of 1776, and the evils it 
entailed. That instrument has been 
persistently lauded here in North 
Carolina as a Palladium of Liberty; 
and. in the main essentials of indi- 
vidual Right and Freedom, as also 
in its early recognition of both com- 
mon education and advanced cul- 
ture, it deserves all praise. But at 
the same time it laid restrictions on 
freedom of conscience; on the great 
right of suffrage, and especially on 
a 1 just legislative representation, 
utterly inconsistent with the Bill of 
Rights preceding the Constitution 
itself, and wholly fatal to real free 
thought and wise public action. 


What was this Constitution ? and 
what the special provisions com- 
plained of, and how came it to be 
adopted ? 

At the time the Provincial Con- 
vention met at Halifax in November, 


1776, to organize the State govern- 
ment, and to frame a Constitution, 
blood had already been shed, and 
all parts of the Province were alive 
with effort to secure soldiers, to ob- 
tain arms and the munitions of war, 
and to equip and maintain troops. 
It was no time to frame organic 
laws, or to attempt to draft consti- 
tutions. In this emergency, it was 
very natural that the fathers should 
still look to Eogland for the essen- 
tial principles of Anglo Saxon free- 
dom. Their quarrel was not bo 
much with England and the Eng- 
lish Constitution as it was with an 
udj let Parliament and a tyrant 
King. They, therefore, here in 
North Carolina, still took the Eng- 
lish Constitution as their guide ; 
but, with many of its best features, 
they unfortunately followed some 
of the worst. Among others it re- 
quired a propertv qualification of 
£1,000 for the Governor, a land 
qualification f~>r both the State 
Senators and the Commoners: the 
former three hundred acres, and the 
latter one hundred, and a free-hold 
of fifty acres for every voter for the 
Senate. They also adopted a fixed 
rule for the numbers of both bodies 
— one Senator and two Con toners 
from each county: with a Borough 
member from each of the towns of 
Edenton, Halifax, New Bern, Wil- 
mington, Hillsboro and Salisbury: 
all without regard to eize or popu- 
lation, and not providing for 
changes which must surely come. 

Still further: They made no 
safe or practicable provision for 
amending the written Constitution 

thus adopted, nor for correcting the 
possible evils sure to arise in its 
operation ; but, manifestly, here 
again, pimply following the un- 
written English model, and leaving 
all to the General Assembly, so con- 
stituted — as Parliament is supreme 
in Great Britain As most of the 
talent, wealth, population and cul- 
ture then lay in the East, it gave 
that section a decided preponder- 
ence of influence and po^er, notably 
so to the small counties around Albe- 
marle Sound. And this thing did so 
continue for over sixty years; while 
the large counties of the Middle and 
West increased rapidly in both 
numbers and wealth, and many 
Eastern counties not increasing at 
all except in slaves. Another strange 
provision was the singular religious 
test, forbidding Roman Catholics, 
Jews, and other non jurors from 
holding public office or trust ! But 
the adoption of this test shows the 
intense bigotry with which all par- 
ties and creeds st : 'l clung to Eng- 
lish supremacy, and Protestant 
sway, as against Spanish and French 
Catholics, Infidels, and all non- 
believers. A quaint and heroic il- 
lustration of the noble patriotism 
of the times, is the fact of the old 
covenanter, Ben Patton, as early as 
as 1774, walking all the way from 
Mecklenburg to the Provincial Con- 
gress at Newborn, to join hands 
with the High Churchman, John 
Harvey, in his sturdy struggle with 
Boyal Power. But it should always 
be borne in mind that the colonies 
had just a few years before come 
out triumphantly from the war 


that drove France from North 
America, and that with all hnv faults, 
at heart, "they loved old England 
still". It was also the heroism of 
Wolfa and the msitcoless a atwem^n- 
ship of Chatham that gave them en- 
during peace; and, with all danger 
now removed alike from French 
and Spanish and Indian, Indepen- 
dence was a special and distinct 
Eentiment of very recent growth. 


The war over and ladependenee 
won, many minds instinctively 
turned to the Constitution and gov- 
ernment under which they lived 
They f?ocn began to realize the 
drawbacks surrounding them; and 
a steady emigration started for the 
promiticg State of Frankland, and 
the "darfe and bloody ground of 
Kentucky", whtra Sevier, Boone, 
Shelby, Henderson and others of 
North Carolina fame were planning 
to "win the West" Still North 
Carolina held her own, and at the 
date of the first census 1790, as 
stated, she was j the third of the 
"Old Thirteen"; only Pennsylvania 
and Virginia outranking her. But 
now come other troubles. 


While the Union of 1789, was of 
countless benefits and blessings to 
the country at large, the wisest men 
in North Carolina readily saw its 
tendencies to centralized power; 
and they, at first, promptly 
declined to adopt the Federal Com- 
pact. They had already realized 
this in their State Constitution. 

And now Will'e -Tones o* the East 
end Joe McDowell o* the West stood 
shoulder to shoulder in resisting 
the adoption of the National Con- 
stitution, until no less than eleven 
amendments, mainly suggested by 
North Carolinia, had been practi' 
cally assented to by the accepting 
States. But even these could not 
effectually guard against the dan- 
gers of implied construction; and 
»ow again the people of both the 
East and the West found their in- 
terests assailed in many wajs not 
dreamed of before 


From the very first, the whole 
system of Federal bounties, subsi- 
dies, drawbacks, and other so call- 
ed protective measures by Con 
grsss, tended to antagonizs and in- 
jure like fnterestn cere. At that 
time, say 1790, North Carolina was 
largely engaged in fishing and coast 
trade; her numerous sounds and 
rivers and sffiuent streams giving 
her superior advantages So she had 
extensive foundries, many kinds of 
mills, tanneries, hatter and other 
ebops, all sorts of handicrafts and 
other skilled industries; and so suc- 
cessful were they that she not only 
supplied her own domestic wants, 
but sent a large surplus to her less 
enterprising neighbors of Virginia 
and South Carolina All at once 
these scattered and struggling in- 
dustries were brought in sharp com-' 
petition with those of the greater 
Bkiil, and with the organized capi- 
tal of the North and East; and ulti- 
mately all declined. True the whole 
South by clinging to simple agrr- 


culture and to slave labor may Lave 
committed gtosa error. But recent 
experience shows that no sort of 
agriculture, and not even combined 
free labor, can stand up against 
class powsr and patronage, once 
protected by law And yet in this 
way North Carolina was doubly 
bound and cursed And while she 
Buffered along with the South in 
general from national legislation, 
certain census facts and figures 
show that other influences, peculiar 
to herself, unquestionably kept her 
under Compare her with Georgia 
for instance. That State was also 
one of the "original thirte3n " As 
tested by population from 1790 to 
1840, North Carolina had not dou- 
bled a single time, while Georgia 
had nine times; and so with Ten- 
nessee and Kentucky, neither of 
them in existence as States in 1790, 
but both leading her in wealth aud 
population in 1840. 

Now the question is forced back 
upon us by these facts and figures. 
Why did North Carolina, with her 
superior climate and her attractive 
lands, as places for homes; with her 
unrivalled water power, and her 
endless variety of productions and 
industries, including valuable fruits, 
forests and minerals, alike in the 
Middle, the East and the West — 
why did she alone steadily de- 
cline ? 


All the facts show that, while 
hostile national legislation may 
have had some effect in producing 
this great decline, it is equally clear 
that other causes had the more 

serious and lasting influence on the 
pbople. And an examination of the 
history of the S»ate will <3ia3lose the 
fact that from 1776 to 1848, the Leg- 
islature was one continued scene of 
angry wrangle and strife between 
whaf was known as the East and 
the West, Wnat was more dis- 
astrous, was the f*ot that the State 
had no overshadowing or control 
ling interests or high sentiment that 
would tend to allay the strife, or 
unite parties or people in any prac 
tioal steps of Progress, or State 
Reform This was iatal to true 
State pride and to all real develop- 
ment More than this: its direct 
effect was to discourage in her lead 
iag men ail thought or study of 
State issues, and to induce them to 
turn rather to the temptations of 
party patronage and the more at- 
tractive honors of National Politics. 
And here as a rule, they generally 
played a seeonoary role. In the 
long period of seventy two years 
there were no leading State issutK 
presented to the people of North 
Carolina I do not of course in- 
clude the Convention of 1835, be- 
cause that was a body of only lim- 
ited power or influence. 

Let us now turn to the historical 
facts, and see what were the gen- 
eral subjects of debate and agita- 
tion in that eventful formative pe- 
riod from 1776 to 1848 They were 
almost invariably of a petty, narrow 
or local class, though occasionally 


One of the first and an ever re- 
curring source of complaint and 



annoyance was the erection of new 
counties. This was in truth, how 
ever, a most serious matter to those 
interested. Often the citizens had 
to travel hundreds of miles to at- 
tend to the most ordinary public 
and private duties; either to return, 
or to pay taxes, to settle estates, to 
secure a right, or to prevent a 
wrong, or even to guard the peace. 
The average citizen of today has no 
conception of the extent of this 
grievance in 1776 and for Bixty years 
following Besides, it prevented 
the Middle and West from aoquir 
ing their due and proper influence 
in the legislature and in the govern- 
ment. Tney were steadily increas 
ing in population and wealth, and 
yet the East persistently denied 
them relief, and they were helpless 
to demand either right or justice at 
the bands of a General Assembly, 
virtually controlled by a dozen 
eastern counties. It is painful 
now to recall the facts of the 
various artifices and devices re- 
sorted to in order to over- 
come obstacles and gain special 
objects A. favorite plan was to 
touch the pride of the East and play 
upon the vanity of some leading 
member of the legislature As a 
result, we have in the Middle and 
West counties called after Eastern 
men of no special force or great re- 
pute. Among others the following 
counties were named in honor of 
living public men from the East, or 
from sections voting with the East, 
largely because of slave property: 
Burke, Caswell, Iredell, Cabarrus, 
Ashe, Moore, Person, Haywood, 

Macon and Yanoy; and after de- 
ceased Eastern men, are Buncombe, 
Davie, Gaston and Stanly 


For some years after 1776, the 
place of meeting for the general 
assembly was migratory; and annual 
disputes were had ovt.r New Bern, 
SaaithfieJd, Fayetteville and Hills- 
bore, the Wfst always '-lsiming 
Hilleboro. But about i795'this w< s 
settled by the removal to Baleigh. 
Then tor long dreary years there 
was no new question of importance 
to break the monotony of Email 
strife, until the West sought to open 
up its rivers, and build looks 
and dams to make them navigable. 
After the complete fu^cess of the 
Grand Eii< Canal, thta-, for a tiaoe 
were a peifeot rage in the Middle 
and West, headed c iefly by Judge 
A. D. (Hurpbey. The East had no 
need for such works and so would 
do nothing. The leading men of 
that section, had early adopted the 
theory of a strict construction of the 
Federal Constitution on this sub- 
ject, and now applied it to State 
improvement Companies were or- 
ganized for so improving the Ca- 
tawba, Yadkin, Deep and Haw riv- 
ers, and much private capital spent 
and all ultimately lost, because the 
State would not aid 


A gain the Middle and West called 
for better educational facilities, and 
here again the East opposed. Some 
did not care for education and oth- 
ers sent their children North or 


arrjad for culture Then it was 
about 1825-1826, that the West, in 
a body, regardless of creed, place 
or party, resolved to start a "West 
ern College," and actually located 
the same at Linuolnton. Tuis, 
too, failed, but remotely it led to 
Davidson College and other denomi- 
national colleges A little later Dr. 
Joseph Caldwell, president of the 
University at Chapel Hill, wrote his 
famous 'Carlton Letter*," urging a 
State Railroad fsom Beaufort bar 
bor in the East, right through the 
State to the mountains of the Weot. 
Even here the Ewt refused to move, 
and the scheme came to naught 
Though, later the Middle and the 
Eist themselves used the credit cf 
the State to build the Raleigh and 
Gaston, the Wilmington and Wei- 
• don (or Raleigh) and the Weldon 
and Petersburg roads, all practi- 
cally leading out of the State. 


But during all this time, the one 
irritating, all pressing question of 
the West was a regular demand, 
made year after j ear, for the legis- 
lature to call a convention to revise 
and amend the State Constitution. 
No appeal could reach 
the small olligarohy that controlled 
that body. At last an event oc- 
curred in 1834 that brought the 
whole subject of a revision of the 
organic law most forcibly before 
the public. In that year, 
there was a vacancy in the 
Supreme Court of the State. Ac- 
cording to custom, the middle East 
was entitled to tbe man; and he was 

found at Newbern in the Hon Wil 
Ham GastoD, too lawyer of highest 
repute and of most culture in the 
State He way, besides, personally 
very popular all over North Caro- 
lina, and of some reputation as a 
debater in Congress j-ist after the 
war of 1812, which brought oompli 
ments from Haury Clay and others 
But William Gaston was an avowed 
Roman Catholic Despite this he 
was elected; and, as there were now 
strong doubis as o the exact mean- 
ing of the famous thirty-second ar- 
ticle of the State Constitution- and 
Gaston himself thought, he was not 
excluded, the sentiment was uni- 
versal in favor of his acceptance. 
He did so; and took the usual oath 
of offioe. This, as never before, 
subjected the Constitution of 1776 
to popular criticism The Legisla- 
ture yielded; and a Convention was 
called, and met in 1835; but with 
only limited powers to make certain 
specified amendments. These em 
braced substantially the abro- 
gation of the offensive thirty- 
second article, and a change 
in the basis of representation in 
both Houses; and a modification of 
the property qualification in cer- 
tain particulars; but leaving un- 
touched that of fifty acres of land 
for the State Senate 

Such was the convention of 1835. 
Its work was only half done; and 
what was done served only to stim- 
ulate further inquiry into the true 
causes of popular discontent and 
the general depression. England 
had already passed her great Re- 
form Bill three years before; and 


the general agitation went on here. 
But soon two other events followed 
each other in quick suseeasioo, and 
with such startling results, as for 
the time, to override all else These 
ware the 

PANIC CF 1837 

The overthrow by Gen. Jackson 
of the "United States Bank", and 
the rapid growth of the "Pet State 
Banks" soon flooded the country 
with a "redundant depreciated cur- 
rency ". Everybody now ran fairly 
wild with speculation, especially in 
public lands Then came the inevi- 
table "Panic of 1837"— exceeding 
anything ever eeen in the United 
States before or since. 

So great W83 the re-action that it 
swept the old Hickory -VanBuren 
Democracy from power in the "Log 
Cabin, Ooon Skin, Hard Cider/' 
cs mpaign of 1840, and landed in the 
white house "Old Tip and Tyler 
too ." The death of Harrison in less 
than a month, yave the whole coun- 
try the "Tyler Grip" for well nigh 
full four years: and no people suf- 
fered like North Carolina during 
those troublous times. In the flush 
days of 1835 and 1836, many of the- 
more enterprising slave holders 
moved to the rich cotton lands of 
Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, 
while thousands of the hardy, self- 
reliant and spirited non-slave hol- 
ders rushed to the inviting North- 
west. It was then that Oaleb B. 
Smith, a member of Congress from 
Indiana, told a member of Congress 
from North Carolina, that fully one- 

third of his constituents were North 
Carolinians, or of North Carolina 


As if all this was not enough 
to depopulate and exhaust the 
distracted and divided old State, 
in 1845 occurred the most 
fearful drought ever experienced 
through tue Piedmont region. It 
wa» so marked in its effects as to 
somewhat prepare the public all 
over the State for a fair discussion 
of our sectional differences, and also 
the absolute necessity of some sys- 
tem of railroad connection between 
the E ist and the West In the win- 
ter of 1845-46 corn rose in many 
partB of West North Carolina from 
fifty cents to one dollar and a half 
a bushel. Much stock perished for 
want of food, and hardly could 
bread or meat be had at any price. 
At the same time, all through the 
East, corn was rotting in the field, 
and fish was used to manure land. 

About this same time, during 
these scarce years of 1845-'46, the 
leading men of Charlotte began to 
agitate a connection with the rail- 
road system of South Carolina, then 
approaching this section through 
both Camden and Columbia. Steps 
were taken for a convention to or- 
ganize a company for that purpose, 
and this was done in the summer fo 
1847, ultimately selecting Columbia 
as the point. 

Also Richmond, Ya. was extend- 
ing her railroad system so as to 
reach our border counties on the 



But in all this, there was no hope 
for the redemption of North Caro- 
lina herself There was no railroad 
west cf Raleigh AH the roads east 
of Raleigh had become embar- 
rassed *nd seemed to have no f u- 
ture. The amend 6d 4 Gon*>titution of 
1835 had not operated to quiet ag- 
itation, or to inspire hope. On the 
contrary, the very abJe debates of 
1834-5 had rather tended to in 
crease the discontent by fully ex- 
posing the inequalities of our whole 
State government It was not a 
free and equal government in the 
American tense. The State was lag- 
gard in every thing. An eminent 
aouth Carolina Senator had openly 
twitted her as the "Rip Van Win- 
kle of the South," and her devoted 
Gaston had written "The Old North 
State Forever," virtually admitting 
the justice of the taunt. 


This year, 1848, was an epoch in 
the Nineteenth Century. On Feb- 
ruary 22nd, 1848, a tmall outbreak 
at a banquet in Paris had brought 
on a conflict that made France a 
Republic, and shook half the thrones 
of Europe. The Mexican war had 
made new issues in America, and 
the whole civilized world seemed to 
awake to the mighty impulses of the 
age. But here in North Carolina 
an artful politician was laying his 
plans to draw his people from the 
whirlpool of national politics, and 
plunge them into one of local sec- 
tional strife, so much dreaded by 

all classes of citizens; and be stirred 
up an agitation wonderful in itB re- 

In 1844, James Knox Polk had 
beaten Henry Clay »nd so restored 
the Democracy to Federal power. 
But North Carolina remained true 
to the WhiRs, and in 1847 Gov. 
Wm. A. Graham had carried the 
State against Jsmes B Shep- 
ard an Eastern man, by a 
largely increased majority Pros- 
pects looked so bad for the 
Democrats that no one cared to 
make a canvass that was attended 
with so much personal labor and 
exposure; such as had already cauB- 
ed the death of two of their best 
leaders— one of them in 1844, the 
lamented Michael Hoke, in the 
very prime of life; In this emer- 
gency the Hon. David S. Reid, an 
numble member of Congress from 
the Rockingham District, appeared 
in the field on a distinatly new State 
issue, dubbed, "Free Suffrage:" 
and which, it was charged at the 
time, the Editor o? the famous Dem- 
ocratic organ in Raleigh, the North 
Carolina Standard, had managed to 
get into the party platform, much 
against the wishes of the party lea- 
ders. Nor is it clear how the Hon. 
Mr. Reidcame to adopt such a side- 
issue, in a great national cam- 
paign, as that then pending, with a 
united party, and an acceptable 
candidate— Gen. Case, at its head. 
But certain it is, that it proved a 
master stroke of bold political wis- 
dom, and soon changed the 
party character of the State — 
finally made Reid Governor 


and then United States Senator, and 
gave the State permanently to the 
Democracy. As a master of fact, 
nwing to tbe local sectional trou- 
bles between the East and the 
Weft., the leaders of both parties 
had long sought to avoid State 
issues and trust rather to National 
to pica for popular discussion. But 
the story is, that after the great 
« Popular Sovereignty Leater," 
Judge Douglas, began paying at 
tentioo to Miss Martin, of Rocking- 
ham, N , and making occasional 
visit' here, he was amezed to find 
ho much of both Old England and 
New England ' fogyism" still per- 
vading our organic law, and that he 
singled out the "fifty acre qualifica- 
tion" for voters for the Senate, as a 
text on which a proper leader could 
carry all before him. His kinsman 
and friend adopted exactly this 
course Reid was not a popular 
orator; the Whig candidate, Charles 
Manly, was vary sprightly and 
attractive; and at first seemed to 
oarry all before him. He ridi 
ouled the '-hobby," and he often 
was cheered alike by Eastern Dem- 
ocrats and Whigs, many of whom 
still clung with tenacity to the work 
of the Fathers of 1776 But when 
the votes were counted out on the 
first Thursday in August, as was 
then the law in State elections, the 
Whig majority had fallen from 
many thousand to a few hundred. 
In the next race for Governor, 1850, 
the same candidates were nominat- 
ed, and again made the canvass. 
But Manly now changed his tone, 
treated the questions seriously, and 

even triV'i to go further than the 
"Radical David " He advocated the 
election of Magistrates, Judges, and 
all State orficials by the people But 
the latter saw the dodgy, and stuck 
to Reid And so Reid and "Free 
Suffrage" triumphed together. The 
constitution was changed by Legis- 
lative enactment, ' and at the ballot 
box, at least, all white men stood 
equal before the law 



In all the canvass of 1848 and in 
all the discussions of that memora 
ble year, here in North Carolina 
scarcely anything was said about 
schemes of internal improvement; 
and least of all, about a great Cen- 
tral Railroad The Whigs honestly 
wanted something of the kind; but 
they were half hearted, and feared 
party lose. The Democrats, as a 
rule, did not favor State aid, and 
hated all talk about "State Reform " 
And as the Historian Moore, him- 
self an Eastern Democrat, well puts 
it: They said, "If the West want 
Railroads, let them build them 
themselves " 

But the moment men got to think- 
ing, and were allowed free debate, 
the scales fell from their eyes. And 
then the true leaders began to see 
the long night of "Rip- Van-Winkle- 
ism," already illumed with the hope 
of a coming dawn. But as yet no 
one man had spoken out, and there 
was no plan of action. On the 
contrary, the appearances were all 
exceedingly unfavorable to any con- 
certed plan of action. 


T :s 

But during the Fall of 1818 Miss 
Dorothea L Dix came South on her 
wonderful work in behalf of the 
iDsane. There was then no Bail- 
road in all the rich Piedmont seo 
tioo, West of the line extending 
from Richmond, Virginia, to Au- 
gusta, Georgia, and she had to 
make her way in lumbering stage 
ooaohes as best she oould from 
point to point and then from oounty 
to county in hired vehicles, over 
rough dirt roads, in order to exam 
ine the jails and poor houses, where 
the destitute insane were then kept. 
Her object, of course, was to get 
plain facts, and so lay the truth be- 
fore the several legislatures, she 
was here in Charlotte at one of our 
fall courts, when John W. Eliis, the 
young Democratic leader from 
Rowan, myself and other members- 
elect to the General Assembly called 
on her. She received like attentions 
all through the State, and when she 
finally reached Raleigh, and began 
to give out the facts, good people 
were simply horrified at the report 
she stood prepared to make. The 
helpless beings were not only often 
confined, on slight charges, and 
frequently loaded with clanking 
chains, all on the idea then com- 
monly prevailing here, of there 
being no other practicable mode of 
treatment; but the jails and poor- 
houses themselves were horrid to 
look upon— almost invariably filled 
with filth and stench, and the occu- 
pants often indiscriminately crowd- 
ed together. 

This was with Miss Dix no mere 
sentiment, and she seemed to de 

spise affectation in any call to high 
Christian duty. Every thought was 
based on sound sense and direct 
business methods Her name was 
already world wide — her fame ri 
valing that of Howard and Romilly. 
She touched incidentally, and with- 
out the least offense, the general 
backwardness of the State, a State 
at once so desirable to live in, and 
so in need of development. The 
papers had little to say, but intelli- 
gent men and women of all classes 
and all seotions saw a crisis was 
upon us. If the work of Progress 
and Reform was onoe entered upon, 
there was no limit to the demands 
upon the cash and credit of the 
State, not then what it now is, nor 
what it soon became under the im- 
pulse of the bold legislation of the 
memorable session then near at 
hand. Still there was no intimation 
of any given line of movement, or 
even a chance of departure from 
the traditional "doigingdo-nothing 
polioy." Worse still, there was no 
money in the treasury, and the 
treasurer's report then showed the 
whole State revenue for general pur- 
poses was only the pitiful sum of 
of $96,000; a less sum by half 
than Charlotte and Mecklenburg 
oounty now annually collect and 
pay out. But here was this heroic 
woman asking, at one swoop, fully 
And now to the battle. 


The two Houses met November 
20th, 1848 Party feeling ran high. 
Taylor had been elected President, 



and Manly had carried the State; 
but che latter by so small a majority 
as to point to the ultimate triumph 
of "Little Davia" and the "Free 
Suffrage Democracy", if only the 
party harness could be kept in or- 
der, and well in place But here 
again was a singular coincident: 
Each house was just evenly tied; 
and each had several contested 
seats; and the famous one of Wad- 
dell against Berry, from Orange, 
actually extending through six 
weeks. What chance for Railroads 
and Lunatic Asylums in such a 

After a few days' balloting the 
Whigs got the Commons, with the 
generous, conciliating Robert B. 
Gilliam, of the strong slave county 
of Granville, for Speaker; and the 
Democrats secured the Senate, with 
the unyielding, unfaltering, ever re- 
liable Oalvin Graves from the no 
less negro county of Oaswell, as 
their Speaker and leader. 

Gov. Wm. A. Graham was the re- 
tiring Executive, and in his last 
message, he g&ve account of the 
deplorable condition of both the 
State and the people. He frankly 
admitted that -'the transportation 
facilities were the worst of any State 
in the Union " The Raleigh and 
Gaston Railroad had utterly broken 
down, and was near a stand-still; 
the Wilmington and Weldon was 
threatened with default; and the 
State in the lurch for both ! He 
cordially commended Miss Dix and 
her mission to the earnest consider- 
ation of the members; but even he 

could not yet recommend State 

Still Gov. Graham did advise a 
sort of prospective line of railroad 
from Raleigh to Salisbury, and then 
to be extended on to Charlotte, and 
ultimately connect with the road ap- 
proaching that point from Charles- 
ton and Columbia For this pro- 
posed line he advised a limited State 
aid, but it was mainly to serve and 
save the dilapidated Raleigh and 
Gaston Hue, acd eo protect the State 
from expected loss Aud it was 
pointedly objected that the first 
and immediate effect of such a line 
would only be to build up towns 
and cities out of the State, with 
a mere chance of an Eastern exten- 
sion, thereafter, as suggested by the 
Governor William A. Graham, 
however, was the one man 
that then and at all times repre- 
sented the beat conservative pro- 
gress of the State; and if this was 
all he and his followers had to offer, 
the prospects were gloomy enough. 


But it also speedily turned out 
that, in anticipation of the City of 
Richmond extending one of its nu- 
merous railroad lines on to Dan- 
ville, upon our Northern border, 
the Charlotte and South Carolina 
Railroad Company would carry their 
Road right on through the State; 
and would do this without a dollar 
of public money — State or County. 
They asked only a "naked charter." 
Then, what made matters doubly 
complicated was the fact that 


every member along this pro- 
posed "Danville Connection" from 
Mecklenburg to Rockingham, stood 
prepared to fight to the very end 
for thid "Naked Charter." 

Mr Ellis, cf Rowan, had charge 
of the bill, and the same was intro- 
duce! the very day after the organ- 
ization of the Assembly. 

Tae most determined, ever ready, 
outspoken opponent of the "Dan- 
ville Connection" was the Hon. Ed- 
ward Stanly, member of the House 
from the couaty of Beaufort, in the 
extreme East. He was an ex-mem- 
ber of Congress — of some repute, 
and easily led the Whigs. He was 
an intense partisan, but was always 
a generous foe. Ha indulged in no 
demagogism; did not make set 
speeches; rarely published one, and 
never "spoke for Buncombe " His 
position was a peculiar one. No 
railroad talked of or contemplated 
was likely to reacn his home of "Lit- 
tle Washington;" nor did he have 
any scheme of his own to embarrass 
him. He therefore stood forth as a 
bold and really honest advocate for 
any really good North Carolina sys- 
tem that would likely build up our 
own State. This attitude gave great 
weight to all he said. He boldly 
avowed his purpose to fight, in 
every conceivable way, what he 
called the "Danville Sale " "But," 
he would often say, "the friends of 
this South Carolina and Virginia 
bondage were not to blame, so long 
as the North Carolina Assembly 
failed to give her people a real 
North Carolina system." '"This 

failing," he said, "I, too, go for 
Danville " 

Meantime, a bill embodying Gov. 
Graham's plan had been intro- 
duced, but had no strength. And 
yet all agreed "that something must 
be done," and there was a general 
demand for an advance movement 
all along the line of modern pro- 

In the midst of all this doubt and 
despondency, the Hon. James 0. 
Dobbin, of Cumberland, the leader 
of the Liberal Democracy, appeared 
in the House from the death bed of 
his wife, and in the spirit of her last 
request made the speech of the ses- 
sion in favor of a State Asylum 
President Swain too had come down 
from Chapel Hill, and asked in the 
name of the young men of the State 
soma hope of progress. Miss Dix 
herself consented to appear before 
the House She entered, lean- 
ing on the arm of the President 
of the noble State University, then 
just rallying from a painful struggle 
of over fifty years. All this waB 
more than even the "Hard Shell 
Democrats" could stand. The Dix 
Bill passed by 101 to 10 in the 

This measure, of course, had no 
connection with Railroads, and yet 
the friends of the railroad all brea- 
thed freer. At last, one advance 
step had been taken, and at last, a 
breach had been made in the solid, 
eerried ranks of an Old Fogy, State 
Sectionalism, and a narrow-mis* 
called Jeffersonian Democracy. Miss 
Dix alludes to this in letters at the 



Immediately every body went to 
work to get up bills for some new 
measure; Short Line Railroads, 
Canals, Turnpikes, water-waye,PJank 
Roads, Law Reform?, Bights of Mar- 
ried Women, and hundreds of other 
bills poured in. Bat no one dared 
to tackle a regular Railroad System, 
requiting millions cf State money. 
At ,last the Hon. W. 8. Ashe, the 
Democratic Senator from New Han- 
over, later a member of Congress, 
and in after years President of the 
Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, 

Si urged to formulate a plan. 
Ir. Ashe came from a town that 
t did not have faith in Beaufort 
Harbor. Her keen-witted W. B. 
Meares had hit a commercial Bnag 
long before, when he said, "It storms 
at Beaufort 365 day a in the year" 
Mr Ashe's bill was a plain business 
Bcheme. It proposed the begin- 
ning of a sort of North Garolina 
system. This called for two mil- 
lions ol Slate money to build a rail- 
road from Charlotte to Goldsboro, 
two hundred and twenty five miles, 
provided one million of stock was 
otherwise taken. It left out for the 
present the Baleigh and Gaston re- 
lief idea; and all '•Buncombe 9 ' about 
both Beaufort Harbor and the Duck 
Town copper mines of Cherokee. 
This, of course, tended at first to 
weaken the bill; but the wisest men 
easily saw that the line was a good 
one; that it would gain strength on 
its own merit; and more, by not at 
tempting too much. 

Still no one attempted to lead off 
for the Ashe bill. So, at last, the 
friends of the "Danville Connec- 

tion" resolved to renew , the 
fight, for their "naked charter.? But 
Mr. EIHb, wbo had charge of the 
"Danville Bill." had been made a 
Judge., and things were all at sea 
and our councils much divided On 
the^fifteenth of January, 1849, we 
go!; our Danville Bill up; and Mr. 
Stanly, as usual, was baffling every 
effort to get a vote. I chanced to 
get the floor, and resolved to hold 
it till a vote was reached in some 
form. Mr. Stanly interfered with 
his regular taunts about selling out 
to Virginia and South Carolina, and 
referred to Richmond as only a 
"Great Slave Mart," and to Charles- 
ton aB "surviving solely on pas 
pretentions." This I resented and 
defied him to make us an offer of 
any Bill providing for a general 
North Carolina System, likely to 
pass, and with sufficient State »id 
to secure its completion, and I, 
for one, would vote for it; and that 
I believed a large majority of my 
"Danville" comrades would do the 
same. This was received with some 
applause by the main body of my 
"Danville" friends. But the Meck- 
lenburg and Rockingham members 
loudly protested. I now felt bold 
to repeat the pledge of the 
Danville Charter people to any 
fair and feasible North Carolina 
System. Ihis was answered 
by applause from all parts of 
the House, Mr.Stanly then sprung to 
his feet and, holding up the Ashe 
bill, said be would pledge himself 
and his Eastern friends to that bill, 
if I would do the same. I assented, 
and Mr. Stanly was about to pre- 



sent the Ashe bill to the House, 
when a question arose as to its 
probable place on the calendar. The 
session was now nearly two months 
gone, and there was danger in 
delay. Therefore Mr Williams, of 
New Hanover, suggested that the 
"Danville Bill" be laid upon the 
table, to enable some one to take up 
the Gov. Graham scheme; also 
known as the "North Carolina Rail- 
road Bill", and which was well up 
on the calendar J This was all done; 
and I, still holding the floor, the 
Journal shows — page 672 —that 
'Mr. Barringer moved to strike out 
all after the enacting clause and to 
insert in lieu thereof a substitute." 
This substitute was the "Ashe Bill" 
The next day Mr. H. 0. Jones, Sr., 
who had now arrived, as the suc- 
cessor of Judge Ellis, from Rowan, 
moved to insert in the Ashe 
bill the several sections of the 
Graham bill to revive the Raleigh & 
Gaston road; and Mr. Wadsworth, of 
Graven, moved to insert like pro* 
visions for opening the Neuse river 
from Goldsboro to New Bern So 
the North Carolina Railroad bill, 
thus amended.came up on its second 
reading and was rejected by a vote 
of forty -nine to fifty- six But to 
those familiar with the actual feel- 
ing of the House, the result was not 
discouraging The usual motion 
was made to reconsider, and on the 
17th it passed its second reading — 
sixty to forty -nine I Now came an- 
other scramble for amendments, 
some to make the bill mora accept- 
able in certain particulars, others to 
get in local improvements for which 

particular members were now anx- 
ious; and still others, to so load it 
down with State aid as to defeat it 
either here or in the Senate. These 
were generally voted down, and 
thus lost us a few weak supporters. 
And finally the third reading was 
set for the 18th, when it passed — 
sixty to fifty-two; the Mecklen- 
burg and Rockingham delegates 
still voting solid against it; D. W. 
Courts and T. W. K9en from the 
latter, and N. J. Harrison, J N. 
Davis and J. J. Williams from Meck- 



The chances in the Senate were 
all in doubt. That body was Damo- 
oratio: and up to this time, no 
special effort had been made to 
draw the old ship from its Jeffer 
sonian moorings. And such men 
as Henry W. Cannon, John H Drake, 
A. B. Hawkins, John Berry, George 
Bower, W. D. Bethel, George W 
Thompson, and John Walker were 
hard to lead and could not be 
driven. And above them all sat 
Speaker Calvin Graves, a recognized 
force from a county just under 
the nose of Danville, and devoted to 
Richmond. The speaker was tall, 
angular, and singularly ugly in 
feature: but his character was high; 
he was strictly inpartial, and with 
all courtesy in bearing. From first 
to lest no one could divine a lean- 
ing either way. But now a mighty 
effort was made to teach these born 
men of the plow and of the people 
a new tenet of Republican faith, a 



to what the State owed the public. 
Judge Romalus M Sanders and W. 
W. Holden both stepped forward 
and made strong appeals for the 
new departure. But all to no pur- 
pose And then some of the 
Whigs, left out by the Ashe 
Bill, stood aloof. From t^ese and 
other oauses^it was seen from day 
to day, that in all the preliminary 
skirmishes, as also in the final strug- 
gle, the result would be vezy close, 
and that all might hang on the 
"Baptist Enigma," Calvin Graves. 

By consent, the first and second 
readings were chiefly formal, to get 
the measure in shape, and to secure 
all sides and parties a just showing. 
This was after the old style, quiet, 
North Carolina way, when, as a 
hundred years before, Dissenters 
and Churchman were alike honoring 
King, Queen and Boyal Governor 
by naming towns, counties and 
mountain peaks after them, but at 
the same time, solemnly resolved to 
hurl them instantly from power "if 
they did not do exactly the fair 
thing" So, here, every courtesy 
was shown opposing parties and in- 
terests until January 25 th, when the 
bill came regularly up, after full 
debate, and w»s put on its third and 
final reading The Senate chamber 
was packed with visitors and 
strangers from all quarters to see 
the fate of the momentous struggle, 
now so full of weal or woe to 
the dear "Old North State," 
and which might settle here 
once for all the mighty ef- 
fort to awake North Carolina from 
the long sleep of her death-like 

"Rip-Van Winfeleism" 

Speaker Graves calmly announc- 
ed: "The Bill to charter the North 
Carolina Railroad Company and for 
other purposes is now upon its third 
reading. Is the Senate ready for 
the question?" Feeble responses said, 
'Question." The roll call began ; 
and as feared, nearly every Demo- 
crat voted "No." The tally was kept 
by hundreds, and when the clerk 
announced twenty-two yeas and 
twenty- two nays, there was an 
awful silence The slender form of 
Speaker Graves stood up, and lean- 
ing slightly forward, with gavel in 
hand; he said: "The vote on the 
Bill being equal, 22 yeas and 22 
nays, the Chair votes Yea. The Bill 
has passed its third and l^sfc read- 

I have seen and read of many 
memorable and famous contests, and 
have witnessed many out breaks of 
popular applause; but never any- 
thing like that then following Even 
the granite Capitol seemed to shake 
for joy But this wbb not all There 
was teen no electric telegraph 
in North Carolina; no express 
lines; no mail delivery; but 
immediately, every man and woman, 
every boy and girl, became a sort of 
message bearer. News was hastened 
in every possible way to every nook 
and corner of the Old Common- 
wealth, and the one phrase was : 
"Speaker Graves has saved the 
State — the Railroad bill has 


Here really ends the "Historic 
Struggle" for the North Carolina- 


i i 

Railroad All tubstquent events 
were mere incidents in the develop- 
ment of a modern transportation 
system. And some of these were : 
The peculiar canvas* for raising the 
million of private stock; the efforts 
to repeal the charter at the nest 
session of 1850-1 ;the grant of an 
other million of State aid; the 
spread of the spirit for improvement 
all over the State; the extensions 
both East and West; the renewal of 
the application for a charter for the 
"Danville Connection;" its refusal 
in 1858, sad its grant and building 
1861-4; th-a effect of the Richmond 
and Danville System; and the 
Lease to that System - these 
were all important features, 
and invoked sharp contests. 
But they are all common p' ace, 
compared with the long sectional 
struggle that kepb North Carolina 
poor and purssless for nearly thre3- 
fourtha of a century, and then sud- 
denly came to an end in the Historic 
Epoch of 1848, by the grant of the 
Charter of the "Great Forth Caro- 
lina Railroad", and which has had 
the effect of making us one people, 
and started us, at last, on the sure 
ground of Industrial Progress and 
Commercial Success. The extension 
of the lease of our great central 
line may now be an open question, 
to stand on its own merits. 1 But its 
clear effect, originally, was to give 
North Carolina a leading North 
and South through line; and now 
we have no less than four North 
and South through lines; and vir- 
tually three East and West lines, 
snaking a real net- work of roads; and 

reaching almost every corner of the 
State. ; In my judgment, the begin- 
ning of all this wonderful life and 
activity had its hope and start in 
the singular, striking "Free Suf 
frage Campaign" of 1848; but it 
would all have been lost, and prob- 
ably for years to come, had it not 
been for the high patriotism, for 
the wonderful force of charac- 
ter of that plain North Carolina 
gentleman and Christian statesman, 
Calvin Graves, of G&sweU I hap- 
pen to know that Mr. Graves was 
appealed to on every side to follow 
Party tradition, even to rosentiag 
the personal hits of Mr. Stanly, al- 
ways at heart an anti slavery man. 
But Mr. Graves stood nobly for 


I might here close; but I find 
many popular errors afloat in regard 
to this great North Carolina work, 
and I tnink that most of them ca.n 
be traced to loosely-written Sforth 
Carolina History. In Moore's North 
Carolina School History, page 206, 
it i< stated that in 1848 —"Ex-Gov- 
ernor Morehead and others besought 
the Legislature for State aid in a 
great line from Charlotte to Golds - 
boro — two hundred and forty miles 
long:" And Cameron, in his North 
Carolina Handbook, page 284, con- 
founds the North Carolina Railroad 
with the Atlantic and North Caro- 
lina Railroad, and speaks of the 
former as "undertaken in 1853." 
Now the truth is that in 1848, Gov. 
Morehead was, body and soul, for 
the Danville Connection, Nor did 
he ever give up his first love for that 


line, and es Hie as 1858 was elected 
to the Legislature mainly to secure 
the Danville Charter 

The speech of his life was 
made in reply to W. T. 
Dart oh and others, who still clung 
to the old-time sectional prejudices 
The charter was refused, bus the 
war soon opened the eyes of Mr. 
Dsrtoh and his friends 

But it is also true that, in due 
time, when it was feared that the 
million of private stock might not 
be raisad, and so save the charter, 
Gov. Morehead came forward as the 
one man to rally the masses to the 
work He did it, and was made the 
first President of the company. 
Then he also went to work to build 
the Eastern Extension to Beaufort 
Harbor; for long years a sad failure, 
but of late even "the Mullet Road" 
begins to pay. Such is the remark- 
able effect of this "Great. Backbone," 
the North Carolina Railroad, in 
bringing together all the diverse 
and diversified mioresfcs of our 
thriving North Carolina population. 


At once, after the charter was 
granted, the people took hope. 
They organized companies to begin 
the numerous works provided for 
by the legislature, as opening up 
rivers, digging canals, building 
turnpikes, plank roads, &c, &c. 
Emigration from the State was meas- 
urably stopped, and a large body of 
Bmali slave holders— our most enter- 
prising class — soon sprang up in all 
parts of the State. Better still, the 
mechanic arts were once more re- 
vived under the ad valorem Walker 

tariff of 1846 An old uncle of mine 
had about a dczen slaves, and nearly 
all were trained mechanics, choice 
cooks, etc. But wilh all this there 
was as yet no surplus money in 
North Carolina, nor was there any 
such device as a "Cons ruction Com- 
pany" in those primitive timee in 
North Carolina Up to January 1, 
1850, the million of private stock 
had not been secured, and there was 
talk o( 'repeal" as a campaign ory 
in the coaiing election. Gertaiu 
liberal gentlemen agreed to resume 
the remaining stock, and called a 
meeting for organization at Salis- 
bury July 11, 1850, and trust to the 
immense assembly then gathered to 
relieve them Moreheacs and many 
other eloquent speakers were heard. 
But &.11 without real eff act. At last, 
old Ms. William Boyian, of Raleigh 
mounted the stand and said: "This 
morning I happened to recall that 
when I was a boy, the "spelling 
books' and 'Geographies' all said that 
the main staples of North Carolina 
were "tar, pitch and turpentine," 
and 1 asked to see one of the new 
books to find if there was any 
change They brought it to me, 
and there were the same old pic- 
tures ! My friends, I want to see 
this changed; and that, too, before 
this feeble frame goes to its grave. 
Do you say so? Shall it be done?" 
This brought the stock As instance 
of noble response, Dr. John Fink, 
of Concord, worth probably 
$4,000, took stock for $8,000, and 
made it good; two maiden 
ladies of Cabarrus, Betsey and 
Katy Burns, worth probably 


$2,000 eacb, took $1000 each 
And thus the stock was at last 
taken; the company was then or 
gsniz^d; the surveys were duly 
made; the line wae laid out into four 
main divisions; and it was arranged 
to work on all at the same time. 
Then on July 11th 1851, the cere- 
mony of "breaking ground" was 
performed at Greensboro by 
Speaker Oalvin Graves, in the pres 
ence of &n immense assemblage. It 
wus then agreed that the entire 
work should be completed, Jan, 1st 
1856. This would bave be„n done, 
but for the scourge of Yellow Fe- 
ver at Norfolk, preventing the de 
Lvery of the iron. But the 
last spike was driven Jan 29;h 
1866; and on Jan. 30th 1856, the first 
train of cars ran through the whole 
length from Goidaboro to Charlotte, 
223 miles, making about eight years 
after the charter was granted. 

To be sure this was slow work, 
oompared to later trans continental 
achievements. But the results have 

been simply marvellous. Clou Id the 
spirit of my exeellent friend Billy 
Boylan now return to his native 
State, he would see on the trade 
list of the day a greater variety of 
articles from North Carolina than 
from any other State in the Union, 
and he would find here more mills 
and factories thau in any other 
Southern State And he would see 
the products of the East and the 
Weat now daily interchanged from 
Wilmington, Moraheal City and 
Nag's Head in the East, to tne 
Cherokee and Tennessee line in the 

People may well differ as to the 
authors of this great North Caro 
lina Railroad measure; but to one 
fact all assent: Had it not been for 
the casting vote of Calvin Graves, 
we would probably be "Old Rip" 

And now I predict : That in ten 
years she will be the Empire State 
of the South Atlantic slope